Several 19th Century buildings on New Rochelle’s Main Street, all long-obscured by 20th Century metal and stucco façade cladding, have been restored this year to their original grandeur through designs by the architectural firm, Susan Doban Architect, PC.
The New Rochelle Business Improvement District (BID) provided matching grants to restore five facades as part of the Model Development Block project. The Curtain Shop’s new façade was unveiled on June 27, 2006, at a ceremony featuring local elected officials and business leaders. The building is located at 541 Main Street.
“Designing the façade for the Curtain Shop and General Store was particularly rewarding because the earlier probes indicated that there might be a gem of a façade hidden behind the cracked stucco covering that unfortunately had concealed, yet, ironically enough, protected, the building’s true beauty for many years,” said Susan Doban, president of Susan Doban Architect, P.C. “This turned out to be just the case. The building is now one of the beautiful turn-of-the century stone and terracotta jewels along Main Street that is being polished to complement a string of new development.”
“Susan had confidence that we could restore our building when other architects said it couldn’t be done,” said Louis Vaccaro, manager and one of the owners of the Curtain Shop, adding that ongoing communication with Ms. Doban was key to the success of the project. “She was able to take most of the old and add the new. I think she’s amazing.”
Ralph DiBart, executive director of the New Rochelle BID, added, “Susan Doban did a superb job on many levels. She’s an outstanding designer who was sensitive to the historic nature of Main Street and the practical, physical concerns of trying to restore the buildings. Equally important was her ability to fully execute the construction supervision until the very end. The results speak for themselves. The building owners and downtown business community are excited and proud of the results.”
For the commercial office building which was once the New Rochelle Trust Company at 542 Main Street, the architects designed the restoration of the brownstone, brick and granite façade. Their analysis of historical photographs revealed that a large ornamental canopy which had been placed there earlier in the century was not original to the building, and they proposed to eliminate it so that the beautiful, ornate brownstone work could be more fully visible. The building was once home to a glass company, and the ornamental stained glass window above the building’s entrance will also be protected by the renovation.
“As a Brooklyn-based firm, we are accustomed to seeing brownstone used in residential construction, but this it is highly unusual to see it in such a grand commercial structure,” Ms. Doban said. “We are proud to participate in its restoration.”
Diamond Glass, at 555 Main Street, which features a showroom and shop on the first floor, presented a different set of design challenges because the building had been covered with metal panels, which concealed years of prior façade renovation that had eliminated the original historic detail. As a result, the architects used modern materials to emulate the proportions of the original façade. New window openings were also provided to complement the owner’s interior conversion of the second floor vacant space into rental loft units.
The architects have also designed the restoration of the Talner Jewelers building at 565 Main Street, completing the design of the model block. Construction on the building is expected to begin this summer.
All of the designs required New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) approval. “The challenge was to preserve the historic character using materials, forms, and proportions that would appear convincingly historical, while making use of readily available, economical materials; but also to create designs that would enhance the character of upper Main Street as a modern, vibrant, shopping street,” Ms. Doban said. “It’s incredibly exciting to see the richness of the past preserved alongside projects that are very much of the present. Architectural richness is one of the Main Street’s great assets.”
In addition to the firm’s façade designs on Main Street, Susan Doban Architect, PC has created Façade Renovation Design Standards, a book of guidelines for building façade restoration, signage, awnings, and lighting that will improve the appearance of the business district. On the other end of Main Street in New Rochelle, the firm has designed a number of buildings for Monroe College’s campus including Harrison Hall, a 61,500 square foot dormitory on which construction is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2007 that will feature 50 suites for 250 students and a cafeteria serving the entire campus. Also for Monroe College, the firm designed Allison Hall, a 200-student dormitory that opened in fall 2004, and Milavec Hall, an administration and classroom building that opened in 2003.
Susan Doban Architect, PC has designed 45 residential units above the Fairway Supermarket on Van Brunt Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and streetscapes for Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and for Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The firm also designed the offices of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce in a 19th Century building that originally housed a major department store. In recognition of the design, the Chamber presented the firm with one of its Building Brooklyn Awards in 2004. In the last two and a half years, Susan Doban Architect, PC has worked on more than 25 New York City School Construction Authority projects.
More information about Susan Doban Architect, PC is available at 718-797-1041 or www.susandoban.com. More information about the New Rochelle BID and its façade improvement program is available at 914-960-1460.